Online advertising has been growing along with the rise of the Internet. At the turn of the century, digital was less than 3% of total marketing budgets, but this year it has now grown bigger than offline, traditional spending. This is certainly a major milestone for advertising and signals a significant shift in how brands engage consumers.
We’ve long seen the signs: smaller audiences for network TV, traditional print publications closing up shop, an entire generation that has no idea how to mail a letter. But the recent numbers confirm that traditional advertising just might be going the way of the landline and the CD player.
A February 2019 study by eMarketer found that online advertising spend has officially outpaced traditional, and by 2023, digital ad spend will make up two-thirds of total media spend:
“Total digital ad spending in the US will grow 19% to $129.34 billion this year—54.2% of estimated total US ad spending,” the report read. “And mobile will continue its dominance, accounting for more than two-thirds of digital ad spending, at $87.06 billion this year.”
Here are a few reasons advertisers are flocking to digital.
Attention has gone online
No judgment, but chances are, you checked your email and social media before you even got out of bed this morning. A recent study by ReportLinker confirms that we’re pretty tied to our devices. It found 46% of Americans check their smartphones first thing in the morning. And further research shows that they don’t stop connecting with digital media at any point in the day.
The 2019 Digital Report from Hootsuite found that Americans are spending, on average, six hours and 42 minutes online each day, and half of that time is spent on mobile. As we spend less time with traditional forms of media and more time on devices, it makes sense that advertisers would follow the eyeballs–straight to digital media.
Engagement is easier to measure than ever before with online advertising
There’s a reason we don’t measure click-through rates from television commercials. Because it’s impossible. However, digital advertising, no matter the form, gives audiences the opportunity to take immediate action. Remember when TV ads used to implore viewers to “call today”? In the online world, “call today” has turned into “click right now,” and audiences are responding. It has never been easier to connect with brands, and users have come to expect their favorite businesses to meet them where they actually are, which is online.
Offline ads are static. Online advertising is dynamic.
Without a doubt, there are some traditional advertisements that are absolutely iconic. Coca-Cola’s “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke” ad was so good it was featured in the final episode of Mad Men. But for every “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke,” there are probably ten thousand more traditional ads that audiences find irrelevant, annoying, or even offensive.
However, online advertising is served one at a time. And advertisers can watch campaigns play out in real-time. If no one is clicking, watching, commenting, or sharing, advertisers can begin tweaking their content, testing those tweaks, and serving audiences ads they actually want to engage with.
Personalized ads are now possible in online advertising
And while some traditional ad campaigns seem to strike a nerve and resonate with pretty much all audiences, studies have shown that most customers would like messaging to be much more personal. A 2016 study by Adlucent found that the vast majority, 71%, of consumers prefer personalized advertising. Luckily there are so many ways to serve customers ads that are relevant to their interests, location, or demographic.
Twenty years ago, it would have been hard to believe that businesses would eventually be able to serve a potential customer an ad based on their zip code, radius, or even proximity to a store, not to mention targeting based on the items they looked at on a brand’s website. These days, those things are not only available, but they also the standard and make all the difference in offering audiences personalized, relevant messaging.
Measurement is much more detailed in online advertising
John Wanamaker, a merchant and U.S. marketing pioneer once famously said “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted. The trouble is, I don’t know which half.” And it’s true, in the old days of traditional advertising, there was no way to tell which targets saw your ad and which used it to line a birdcage.
One giant benefit of digital advertising is that likely no one is using it to line a birdcage. Another is that it is so much easier to tell exactly how customers are interacting with messaging. With digital, advertisers can see in real-time which site, keyword, social post or sponsored search results drove the conversion. This instantly-available data makes it easier than ever before to see which ads customers are responding to, which also makes optimizing what’s working and course-correcting what isn’t easier than it’s ever been before.
Of course, there’s still a place for those iconic, Mad Men-era campaigns. Coke’s remastered “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke” video currently has over 350k views on YouTube.